History relates explicitly that simple armorial bearings were employed before surnames were established and that, in the tenth century, knights assumed their names which were suggested by their symbols. For combat, in battle, or at tournament a knight presented himself with closed visor and no one knew him except by the symbol he wore. When once some glorious achievement had been associated with his symbol, that sign became a true surname and it became permanent and hereditary.
It is obvious the symbol, goussé, in the Gossett coat-of-arms was the only armorial device worn by the first knight it represented, and the heraldic significance of this symbol is evidence that the ancient family of Gossett lived in Normandy, France, before their surname was established. The French word, Goussé (pronounced Goo say´), was the early form of the Gossett name. The name and the symbol were identical. Therefore, the goussé symbol designated a chivalrous knight in the very early history of the family and, subsequently, inspired the Goussé name. Goussé became Goussét; finally, Gosset or Gossett.
Some families continued to use the name Goussé, as found in French volumes among names of nobles of ancient France. And, several soldiers by the name of Goussé served with La Fayette's troops in the American Revolution. At least for some time, other families used Goussét. (See two biographies in Part III of this book, which deals with "Other Gossetts.") However, in France, England, and America the name is Gosset or Gossett. "Gossett, or Gosset" is the title occurring in The Genealogist's Guide by George W. Marshall, L.L.D., Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms (1903), I, 348. Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, revised 1905, describes the crest under "Gosset" or "Gossett".
Goussé is the French word meaning pod, and the phrase, goussé de fèves, means literally pod of beans, or bean-pod. "Pod" and "beans"are word pictures and are of very early date. They have literal significance. Therefore, the goussé symbol, representing a product of the soil, indicates the Gossetts possessed land. Consequently, they were feudal lords.
The lords of France owned all the land, which was the only form of wealth, and they were rich and great in power. Only they and their sons were admitted to knighthood, and they had complete political independence of the French king. The lords possessed an exalted rank in that golden age for the upper class, when feudalism was at its height from the 9th to the 14th century. Feudalism was a localized lord-vassal arrangement in a time when there was no effective national government. Feudalism was based on hereditary authority. In later history, the lords were called feudal barons, and the feudal barons were the nobles of France.
Two other facts concerning the early Gossett family in Normandy are disclosed in the description of the bean-pods:
- Feuill-ées et tigées, meaning literally "furnished with leaves and stalked", or "growing and prospering", signify the Gossett family had great prosperity and authority through the possession of land.
- Since beans thrive in the moist air of coastal regions, the bean symbol implies that the location of the Gosset estates was in proximity to the foggy climate of the English Channel.
The Gosset estates were located in western Normandy on the Cherbourg peninsula in the neighborhood of St. Sauveur, which was about eight miles from the west coast. (See Henry A. G. Driscoll, Genealogical Sketches of the Families of Driscoll, Etc. N. Y., 1918, under "Gosset," pp. 34-36.)
The symbol of the bean-pod is most unusual and interesting because it is definitely historical of the ancient family of Gossett and because it does not appear, as many emblems do, on other shields. Usually the symbols, or emblems, of heraldry denote the deeds or characteristics of the first bearer; frequently, they express elevated sentiments and their meanings are involved; sometimes they are mystical, for the old knights were secretive and often only the family knew the significance of the emblems. The symbols are animals, birds, trees, flowers, fruits, and inanimate objects.